Chili from scratch

Mama Liberty's picture

I like chili sometimes, especially on a wet, cold, windy day such as today, but I have never really managed to get the seasoning "right" unless I used the package chili mix. And, all too often, I use canned beans and sauces as well. Tastes good, and it's easier.

Today I decided to make chili and discovered I had no packaged seasoning. I also thought it was a good idea to use dry beans, since I don't always have consistent results and need to practice if I'm going to live on the things in the future.

So, I brought the 2 cups of (small red) beans to a boil and then let them sit for an hour. Heating them again slowly, I let them simmer (with an occasional stir) for another three hours, then began to assemble the rest.

In a stainless steel "dutch oven" pot:

1/2 lb. lean ground beef, browned and crumbled
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1 16 ounce can tomato sauce (+1/4 can water to rinse it)
2 pounds diced tomatoes and juice (frozen (then thawed) from last year's garden)

Seasoning (all measurements are estimates)
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp dried, minced garlic
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 scant tsp. cayenne pepper (this is quite hot)
1/4 tsp. ground celery seed
1 tsp. turmeric powder
2 tsp. dry flake oregano

The sauce was cooked, stirring frequently, over low heat until the onion was clear. Then the beans were added. There was quite a bit of liquid, so it was simmered for another hour or so more until almost the desired thickness. Didn't want to use any corn starch or other thickener.

Then I tasted it. Oh boy! Success! Not too spicy, and even the beans were perfectly cooked. This is a keeper.


Actually, masa harina is perfectly legal to use as a thickener.

Celery seed? I use that a lot of places, but not in chili. But the turmeric kinda puts it into the Ohio-style category where anything goes.

Ward Griffiths
Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. Denis Diderot

Hi there, oh chili expert!

I have some very unorthodox ideas about chili - well, cooking in general. I don't worry much about the conventional way of doing much of anything. :)

I usually put diced celery in chili if I can get it, but often will use ground celery seed if the fresh stuff is too expensive. And I had never used turmeric before at all, but someone told me that was part of the commercial chili seasoning so I got some to try. I don't know what it tastes like all by itself, but it sure didn't hurt. The chili I made this time tasted even better than what I usually come up with, so I couldn't be happier. And turmeric is supposed to be very good for us too. Too bad it is so expensive.

The cayenne I got will probably last me a lifetime. I bought 5 pounds of it at a very low price. The first time I used it I put in the normal amount and nearly died of scorched innards. This stuff is powerful!! LOL Only after did I learn there were several levels of "heat" available, and I'd accidentally bought the hottest kind. Oh me. But I figure I can use it for barter if nothing else.

Say HI for me to everyone there. :)

More on chili

Might be turmeric for color in some of the "one envelope" chili mixes. Never read the ingredients, haven't used one except for meatloaf. I started with the chili kits: Carroll Shelby's, Old Hired Hand, Shotgun Willie's, Wick Fowler's. In those, the various seasonings are in each their own packet, ground chile powder (I suspect usually New Mexico or a blend of that and one or two others), cumin, garlic, oregano, salt, maybe dehydrated onion, a separate packet of "add-to-taste" cayenne powder. Nowadays I cut out the middleman. Every batch of ground chiles is different, depends on what's on hand -- New Mexico, chipotle, cayenne, habanero, California, cascabel -- I have a small electric coffee grinder that will surprise the hell out of anybody who puts coffee beans in it. I buy whole cumin seed and toast it before grinding. Garlic powder or jarred garlic. Fresh chiles and canned chipotles are a normal ingredient. Mexican oregano instead of Mediterranean when I can find it at a good price, if I don't have it I'll use marjoram instead.

Ward Griffiths
Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. Denis Diderot

All good stuff!

I don't eat things that are particularly hot so a little of the cayenne is plenty good. My cumin seed is pretty old, so I should probably get some fresh. I'll try toasting it. Why do you do that? Just curious.

I prefer the Greek oregano myself - it's actually more like marjoram. The Mexican has too much of a mint/pine flavor. I did try to use some of the wild oregano that grows in my yard, but that was just a little TOO strange. Powerful stuff. :) - though it is excellent for medicinal purposes.

And I hear you about the coffee grinder. I keep one just for coffee, and the other one grinds my flax seed. Mixed them up one day and had some sad coffee. Not terrible, but not really good either. I was just too scotch to throw it out. I use a marble mortar and pestle for grinding herbs and spices/ seeds. A mini food processor does the nuts and larger seeds except really hard ones.

I also got a container of peppercorns... many different colors, and am enjoying using them in all sorts of things.

Did someone say Ohio style?

Heh. This Buckeye never put turmeric in her chili; and if any of the chili parlors I frequented while living in Cincinnati (Skyline was the best, for the record) used it, it wasn’t mentioned. The guys who founded Skyline Chili used cinnamon and allspice—that sort of thing—to give their chili a different flavor from the southwest style. No beans in the base, either, which I know is heretical for some. The kicker is probably that it’s served over spaghetti, with cheddar cheese on top. Sounds weird, but is delicious. And now I’m craving Skyline ... sigh

I don't know...

Guess I'll have to make another batch without the turmeric and see what the difference might be. Got to hurry, though. Chili weather is almost over!

I quite often put cheddar cheese on chili, beans and all. And no, it's not "chili" at all without beans. LOL

Made a marvelous pot of Minestrone soup yesterday, but there is still something missing. Will have to try again next week. I have a bit of it left over and may tinker with that first. It's good, but just doesn't have the "tang" I expected.